From a thriving European metropolis, Kiev has become a combat zone in a matter of hours. The Ukrainian capital is under Russian missile fire on Saturday morning, February 26, and fighting is taking place in the city. Still on the spot, the Ukrainian president called on his people to fight against the troops from Moscow, and assured that Western weapons were on the way.
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Franceinfo summarizes what we know about the situation.
Exchanges of fire into the heart of the city
On the third day of the launch of an invasion by Russian President Vladimir Putin, fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces took place on Victory Avenue, one of Kiev’s main arteries.
— St. Paul Patrick (@psaintpaul) February 26, 2022
“Everything happens less than two kilometers from here, in one of the main avenues of the city. Until now, we heard targeted bombardments. From now on, it’s exchanges of automatic weapons fire, extremely strong, extremely present”testified the special envoy of France Télévisions in the Ukrainian capital, Dorothée Olliéric. “What is certain is that the noose is tightening and that the authorities expect an assault on several parts of the city in an attempt to bring down Kiev”still described the reporter.
Bursts of gunfire and explosions rang out across the city, including in its heart, Maidan Square, where protests in 2014 led to the overthrow of a pro-Moscow government, reports the New York Times.
“In Kiev, heavy fighting continues. The Ukrainian army pushes back Russian saboteurs”, confirmed the Ukrainian Special Communications Service around 4:30 a.m. (Paris time). On Facebook, the Ukrainian army said it destroyed a column of five Russian military vehicles, including a tank, on Victory Avenue. During the night, the authorities had reported a Russian attack against a power plant in the Troieshchyna district, in the northeast of Kiev.
Significant material damage, an uncertain human toll
The traces of the fighting were already visible in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday February 26. Images posted on Facebook by the municipality of Kiev show in particular a high residential building in the capital, hit by a missile strike shortly after 8 a.m. (7 a.m. in Paris). Evacuations are underway, the city’s mayor added. A first assessment of the Ukrainian emergency services reports six people injuredand 80 evacuees.
It is difficult for the time being to establish a human toll of the recent fighting in the country. In a publication posted on his Facebook account, the Ukrainian Minister of Health reported on Saturday that 198 civilians were killed, including three children. The official also counted 1,115 wounded, including 33 children, since the start of the Russian invasion of the country.
The metro transformed into a shelter for the inhabitants, who fear a “day of all dangers”
The basements of the capital have also been transformed into a refuge for the inhabitants who have not fled the city. Traffic has been suspended on the Kyiv Metro and stations will now serve as 24-hour shelters, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on his Twitter account.
Метро перейшло в режим укриття. Транспортних перевезень здійснюватись не буде.
— Віталій Кличко (@Vitaliy_Klychko) February 26, 2022
“The inhabitants spent the night in hidingalso told the special envoy of France Télévisions in Kiev, Dorothée Olliéric. I had conversations on the phone with really terrified people, who say to themselves that this day is the day of all dangers.
Volodymyr Zelensky calls for not laying down arms
“I am here. We are not going to lay down our arms and we are going to defend our country”. In a video posted at dawn on social networks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on his compatriots to defend the capital. Filmed in front of the presidential residence in Kiev, he urged his fellow citizens not to believe the “fake news” circulating on the internet, according to which he had called on his army to surrender. “Our weapons are our truth. This is our land. This is our country. Our children. We will defend all of this. Glory to Ukraine!”he launched.
Не вірте фейкам. pic.twitter.com/wiLqmCuz1p
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 26, 2022
Volodymyr Zelensky also assured that“weapons and equipment of [ses] partners [étaient] on the way to Ukraine”evoking a anti-war coalition [qui] works”. He spoke in the night with his French counterpartEmmanuel Macron.